I've been meaning to post this ages ago. It was a random conversation with a few of the girls that reminded me of this topic. We were talking about what, in our own opinion, makes a man a Real Man. Despite the ladies taking part in this particular conversation being educated, modern, liberal and free-thinking, all of us shared the same, rather old-fashioned image on a Real Man.
1) He can, when needed, put up a shelf. And the said shelf will withstand substantial weight put upon it, and it will, most importantly be level. What it is about this thing with shelves and putting them up that appeals to me and my friends, but it seems to be a deal-breaker. So basically, if you can't put up a sturdy, level shelf, there's no point in coming over knocking on our doors.
2) He can wire a plug. And change a light bulb. Or a fuse. Or anything relatively simple to do with household electrical stuff. I suppose it is comforting to know that you share your house with someone who will save the day when your hair dryer has decided to blow a fuse, or when turning on the washing machine has somehow caused a blackout throughout the house. Just don't go fixing the toaster with a fork and you're okay in our books.
3) He can change a flat tyre and change the oil in a car. The former, I can do without breaking a sweat. Mainly because my father wanted to make sure I knew how to change a tyre in case I ever got stick in the middle of nowhere with a flat. I know how to do it, but still, when given the choice, I would expect Mr S to do it for me. The feminist part of my brain screams in protest when the princess side of my brain makes my mouth utter the words "But I'll get dirty...". I pride myself in being independent and self-sufficient, but there's something about cars that make me automatically turn to a man. I am also ridiculously easily impressed by Real Men, who know exactly what is wrong with a car just by listening to the noise it makes. To me, that's nothing short of magic.
I cannot help but thinking, am I really that conditioned by traditional values and my up-bringing that I automatically conform to these old-fashioned stereotypes? I grew up in a house where both of my parents worked, but where my mother worked from home up until I was in my early teens. My father travelled a lot because of his work and was sometimes gone for weeks at a time. So there were times when my mother ran the house for both of them.
But if anything needed fixing, building or tinkering with, we never called a handyman. My dad would fix anything that was needed. The only time we had tradesmen in our house was when we were extending the house. Building regulations stipulate that you need a registered tilers, plumbers, electricians etc. to do the work in order for the building inspector to approve it. Outside of that, my father has built a barbecue hut, a back porch and few other bits, not to mention the house itself. Him and his brothers and brothers-in-law are all handy with a hammer.
Maybe it's just that generation. Are those skills disappearing? My paternal grandparents' place needs a bit of fixing up every year. It's my dad, his brothers and brothers-in-law who do the fixing. No need to get the builders is, everyone mucks in and the job gets done. And it gets done right. Real Men doing Real Work. Last summer, at the time of my cousin's wedding the whole family was there. The timber cladding at the front of the house needed to be replaced. What better way to spend quality time with your extended family than partake in a small project like that? Myself and my brother's fiancée were painting said timber boards that were later to go up to clad the house, in +35 degrees centigrade, being eaten alive by horse flies. But it got done.
So maybe it is just our family. Everybody mucks in, but men are expected to do the hard work. Real Men.
I appreciate sensitivity in a man, I love a man who knows his art and his culture. I like being able to go to the theatre with a man without dragging him there. But at the end of the day, despite being quite handy with the cordless drill, I want a man who will put up a shelf for me, and hang pictures on the walls without having to call someone else in to help. A Real Man. Lucky for me, Mr S is just that. A Real Man.